Months after Congress leaders ran a smear campaign denouncing Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine Covaxin, senior party leader and former president Rahul Gandhi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Modi asking him to open “vaccination for everyone who needs it” and also immediately halt exporting vaccines. The Gandhi scion also asked the Centre to fast track other vaccines.
Gandhi, ever ready to exploit national adversity to his advantage, presented a laundry list of demands to be fulfilled as India is afflicted by the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak. In his letter, Gandhi sought a greater role for states in procuring and distributing vaccines. He also asked for income support for vulnerable sections of the society affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Wayanad MP also asked the central government to financially support vaccine manufacturers to ramp up their production and doubling of central allocation for vaccine procurement.
“The efforts of the scientific community and vaccine makers had been undermined by the centre’s poor implementation and oversight”, Gandhi wrote in his letter. He also raised questions on the government’s approval for large-scale exports of the vaccines, saying, “While our nation is facing vaccine starvation, more than six crore doses of vaccines have been exported.”
Emphasising that his party supports a well-planned, universalised and speedy vaccination drive, Gandhi said, “Our vaccination program has to move beyond an individual’s picture on the vaccine certificate, towards guaranteeing maximum vaccination.”
The Congress leader also accused the central govt of exporting vaccines instead of supplying to states, and said that the central govt should help all states without any partiality.
Congress leaders ran smear campaign to cast aspersions on Made in India COVID-19 vaccines
While Rahul Gandhi calls for ‘Vaccines for all’ and uses the resurgent coronavirus crisis to attack the central government, it is worth noting that several Congress leaders and supporters had indulged in anti-vaccine propaganda after the Modi government had granted its approval for the emergency use of Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
In January 2021, after the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) approved the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines Bharat Biotech’s vaccine Covaxin and SII’s ‘Covishield’, Congress leaders had indulged in peddling propaganda by targeting the government over the efficacy and safety of the vaccine and resorting to fear-mongering ahead of the release of the cure for the pandemic.
Shashi Tharoor, arguably one of the few Congress leaders who looks ‘educated’, too resorted to fear-mongering and lies by claiming that the Covaxin did not yet have phase three trials. It was a brazen lie, given that Bharat Biotech and ICMR were conducting the hird phase trials of the vaccine.
Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated to protect themselves from the pandemic, the Thiruvananthapuram MP was not only discrediting the scientists and other experts who have put all their efforts to develop the vaccine but also pushing the innocent people away from the cure.
Making light of India’s vaccination drive, senior Congress leader Rashid Alvi made an absurd claim stating that just like BJP and PM Modi were using agencies including CBI, Income Tax Department and ED against opposition leaders, they might use the vaccine to target the opposition leaders.
He said that the vaccine will be misused by the BJP against political adversaries and justified the calls for the boycott of vaccination drive. He supported Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav’s claim that these are BJP’s vaccines.
Senior party leader and Deputy leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma also raised aspersions on the efficacy of Bharat Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine by alleging that the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) “dispensed” with mandatory protocols and verification of data by granting approval to Covaxin.
Mr. Sharma, who heads the Parliamentary Panel on Home Affairs that extensively dealt with the issue, said no country had dispensed with mandatory Phase-3 trials and verification of data, and the issue of granting authorisation needs to be taken carefully.
Saket Gokhale, the obsequious fanboy of Rahul Gandhi, could not resist himself from being away from peddling lies and misinformation. Gokhale, whose understanding of science is equivalent to the Congress party’s perceived integrity, found illogical ways to discredit the ingeniously produced vaccine. He attributed false statements to DCGI VG Somani to attack the Made in India vaccines and in the process exposed himself as a spectacular fool with zero understanding of the vaccine and its trial results.
However, weeks after Congress leaders argued against the approval granted to the emergency use of Bharat Biotech developed Covaxin, senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi criticises the centre government over the vaccine shortage. India’s vaccine crisis would have gotten dire if the Centre had paid heed to the demands made by the Congress leaders of reconsidering the approval given to Covaxin.
The absurdity behind Rahul Gandhi’s demand to allow ‘vaccines for all’
Besides, Rahul Gandhi is also spearheading a campaign ‘vaccines for all’, urging the central government to make the vaccines accessible to every citizen even though he is acutely aware of vaccine shortages and limited production capacities. India has a very large population and it is practically impossible to open vaccination for all unless production capacities are augmented significantly.
It is difficult to risk the health system getting swamped by allowing ‘vaccines for all’ before the country has procured sufficient vaccines to inoculate the entire population. The issue as of now is the production capacity of the vaccines. Once the scale of the production is expanded, the central government could think of making vaccines available for all.
It is a profoundly illogical and absurd demand to ask for vaccinations for all. Countries across the world recognise that the initial doses of the vaccines would not be sufficient to vaccinate their entire population. Faced with this stark reality, they prepare a prioritisation strategy so that the vaccines are available for those who are most susceptible to the virus or suffer comorbidities that can exacerbate their mental condition.
Perhaps Rahul Gandhi is unaware that countries do prepare a prioritisation strategy to deal with the vaccine shortages. In the year 2020, a manual called ‘COVID-19 Vaccine, Communication Strategy’ was released by the Ministry of Health which listed in great details the prioritisation of who gets the vaccine first and the rationale behind it.
The manual says that it is obvious that initially there will be a limited supply of vaccines and thus those at the highest risk of getting infected with COVID-19 would get vaccinated first. The manual also adds that there are two essential criteria for selecting these ‘beneficiaries’. The first being whether that group is at a greater risk of exposure to infection and belongs to an age group having high COVID related death. And the second is to select those who, when vaccinated, would minimise the spread of the virus.
Based on these two criteria, the government of India decided to first vaccinate health care workers, frontline workers and the population above the age of 50 years. Thereafter, the government decided to vaccinate those who had comorbidities that put them at high risk of death due to COVID. In the latest move, the government has decided that everyone above the age of 45 years should be vaccinated.
The manual then says that those below the age of 50 and with no comorbidities would be vaccinated after the priority high-risk groups were vaccinated.
This prioritisation plan for the vaccine is interestingly not followed by India alone. The same prioritisation plan is followed by The Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the US federal health protection agency. The very same model is also adopted by the UK, Germany and several other nations.